The Sixers went full force trying to acquire a big name in the offseason but have seemingly failed to bring one in. This franchise has been through so much that even the thought of being a finalist for some of the biggest names in basketball is nothing to scoff at. And with potential superstars already on hand, as long as the roster continues to grow, the Sixers remain a promising team.
After a season few saw coming, the Sixers are one of the fastest rising teams in the NBA, thanks much in part to the young talent on the roster. Yes, an established star player being added to the roster would help expedite the process of reaching the NBA Finals, but if what we’ve seen this past season is any indication, they could get there on their own. The Celtics are going to be back and healthy next season, but the Sixers aren’t going to shut everything down just because they've missed out on bigger names. They’ll be making moves to combat their rivals in order to make the next jump in the playoffs. If a big name star were to come to Philadelphia, maybe the window of opportunity would have seemingly opened. But maybe for a short time, if LeBron had signed a 1+1 or Kawhi truly bolts for LA at the first opportunity. However, without the pressure of going for it all right now, the Sixers can focus on the growth of their roster while still battling in the playoffs and gaining experience along the way. The Sixers have the talent to make noise now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the championship window is open just yet. Once players like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons reach their true peak, then that window will be wide open. For the team to get to that point, they will need to look outside of the organization for some help, for sure. But focusing on fixing flaws on the inside right now, could give them a more clear picture of what to address (or who they can part with) down the line.
Ben Simmons has proven to be one of the most electrifying players in the NBA in just a single season. The current NBA Rookie of the Year wreaked havoc on defenses without having any semblance of a jump shot. For this upcoming season Simmons needs to make defenses respect his offensive game as a whole, not just his ability to pass and drive. If Simmons can at least feel comfortable enough to attempt mid range jump shots, and even the occasional three pointer (that felt weird to say) on a semi-consistent basis, then he will become an even bigger threat. The hope is that Simmons and the rest of the Sixers take these free agent decisions as a slight towards them, wanting to improve to the point no one can say no to coming in and going the team.
If Simmons can focus on becoming a more aggressive shooter, then the addition of a new and improved Markelle Fultz would only make the Sixers offense that much more dangerous. Although often rumored to be a necessary part of any package to trade for Kawhi Leonard, Fultz is staying put for now and still has the potential to be another star for Philadelphia. We’ve heard a lot this offseason about Fultz training with Drew Hanlen — frustratingly keeping his shooting transformation under wraps — and while there’s understandable reasons for pessimism, there is still hope for Markelle. After all, he showed promise in the ten games he played in at the end of the year. If he can finally get over whatever problem plagued him, he should slot in as a very useful rotational player for the Sixers. He doesn’t need to blow the basketball world away, and becoming a reliable professional in his first full season would be a huge step in the right direction both physically and mentally.
The biggest problem the Sixers faced against the Celtics in the second round of the playoffs was their inability to defend Boston’s athletic wings consistently. In free agency, the Sixers have the cap space to go out and make some moves for players that can change that narrative. They’re already on their way to doing just that, as they were able to bring in Zhaire Smith during the NBA Draft, someone who has the athleticism to step up to this big test. Couple him with Robert Covington and an improving Dario Saric, and the Sixers have a decent group of secondary defenders that aren’t Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid. The Celtics look to be the biggest roadblock from consistent success for the Sixers in the future, so building up a roster to fight with them year in and year out is a great decision. Bring in a few more players who can step in off the bench and provide defense and some shooting, and the Sixers are in a great position to battle the Celtics in a long physical series.
While building up a deep team is necessary, it is also important to remember who the engine of this team is. Going into his first healthy NBA offseason, Joel Embiid is on the verge of becoming one of the league’s very best players. If he can remain healthy and his progression stays on track, then the pairing of Embiid and Simmons has the chance to become an elite duo in the NBA. If they (Ben and Jo) can be leaders at such a young age, taking on adversity and challenges with confidence and swagger, then the rest of the league could be in trouble. While the entire fate of “The Process” doesn’t entirely land on Embiid’s foot/knee, having a superstar big man certainly helps the growth of the rest of the team.
Losing out on some of the NBA’s best players isn’t what you want, but to think the Sixers needed one of these players to have success is flat out wrong. The upside is there, now it is time for the players to step up and show improvements to their game in order for Philadelphia to be an option for the next group of superstar players looking for a new home. Still one of the most mouthwatering destinations in the NBA because of the mixture of youth and talent, the Sixers aren’t losers this offseason because of their failure to reel in a big fish. The time will come, and as long as the already assembled roster can grow and take another step forward while adding a few more solid pieces, Sixers fans should come out of this offseason feeling confident in their team in a wide open Eastern Conference.